Fighting Crime

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," October 12, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

DAVID ASMAN, GUEST HOST: Oprah Winfrey (search) has declared war on sex offenders, asking her viewers to help cops track down these predators. It is already looking like a huge success. The FBI arrested this convicted sex predator two days after Oprah aired his picture on her show. Two viewers recognized him and called the Bureau. Then Oprah made good on her promise, $100,000 reward for information that led to his capture. A woman of her word. Winfrey, a victim of sex abuse herself, is vowing to track down more offenders with the help of her viewers. Joining us now to talk about her efforts is Ernie Allen, he is president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Ernie, is there anything wrong with this. Is this all good?

ERNIE ALLEN, NAT'L CNTR FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN: I think it's all good. I think it's a powerful use of the media. It's leadership on behalf of perhaps one of America's most respected people. And it is bringing people to justice.

ASMAN: Now, I'm just playing devil's advocate here because it is great that we are bringing these folks to justice and she is paying off these rewards, but might it make people a little less willing to go after folks that don't have a $100,000 reward on their head?

ALLEN: Well, we hope not. And I'm convinced that ultimately there are millions of Americans who are really concerned about this problem. It's not about the money. It is about America's 100,000 missing sex offenders who we need to identify and make sure they are where they are supposed to be.

ASMAN: Now we're always putting out Amber Alerts and trying, whenever we get the face of a sex offender that is on the loose, we put it out there. What more can be done than what we are doing and what Oprah is doing?

ALLEN: Well, I think it's really important we strengthen the laws at the state level. Every state has a sex offender registry. But there are 31 states where the failure to register is only a misdemeanor. There are eight states where if an offender leaves the state to another state, the sole obligation to alert the new state is on the offender. We need to tighten up that system. We need to increase the enforcement. At a minimum we need to know where these guys are.

ASMAN: So, how many predators are on the lam without us knowing where they are?

ALLEN: Well, David, there are 563,000 registered sex offenders in the United States

ASMAN: But of those, the ones who have slipped between the cracks, how many are there?

ALLEN: The estimates are, at least 100,000.

ASMAN: Wow. Now, even if Oprah — Oprah has $1.4 billion. The woman is very, very rich. But even if you divided up every penny she has — I did, that comes to 14,000 awards of $100,000. So that would just be a fraction of all those who are out there?

ALLEN: There is no question about it. Ultimately, the solution to this is not just paying money to identify people. Ultimately what we have to do is strengthen the capacity of state and local law enforcement, of parole and probation, to track these guys down.

ASMAN: Now is that going to be stepping on the foot of the feds?

ALLEN: Well, I think there is real federal leadership on this. There is legislation in Congress right now called the Children Safety Act of 2005 that has already passed the House, it's pending in the Senate, to tighten up this whole system. We need to make sure that the failure to comply with this basic requirement is meaningful. There's a reason that 100,000 of these offenders don't want anybody to know where they are.

ASMAN: So, Children's Safety Act 2005, write to your senator, because that's where it's being held up now, correct?

ALLEN: Absolutely. And there is great leadership in the Senate. Sen. Hatch (search) and Sen. Biden (search) are the co-sponsors. It is bi-partisan legislation. We hope it moves very quickly and that this legislation becomes law.

ASMAN: All right. Folks write to your senators. Ernie Allen, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Again, our hats off to Oprah. She is doing a good job, there. Thanks a lot, Ernie. Appreciate you coming in.

ALLEN: Thank you, David.

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